Dog Bite Lawyers

Most people and families choose to get a dog as a sense of companionship and to be a true man’s best friend. However, sometimes people forget that dogs require training and, without proper training, can be the same as a wild animal. Without proper instruction and obedience, dogs can lash out and bite those that approach them.

When you or a loved one have been involved in a dog bite incident, it can be difficult to bring a claim. However, there are laws that make it easy for victims to obtain proper recompense. The Florida dog bite attorneys at Howell & Thornhill are here for all victims and their families to help them get the compensation they deserve after sustaining a dog bite.

What is a Dog Bite Attorney?

A dog bite attorney is a personal injury attorney who dedicates part of their practice to dog bite injuries and providing support to victims of dog bites by gaining them financial compensation for their injuries. Like all other personal injury attorneys, a dog bit lawyer can bring a civil lawsuit to recover damages after the accident.

A Florida dog bite attorney can inform you of your legal options, the extent of your liability, the potential sorts of defenses, and the potential financial and legal repercussions of your case. You should seek legal assistance as soon as possible if a dog attack or bite has left you or someone you know hurt.

Why Hire a Dog Bite Attorney?

Everyone has the right to act as their own attorney in both criminal and civil proceedings. However, you’ll probably have less luck in court if you represent yourself. In a court of law, pro se litigants are held to the same standards as attorneys but without the benefit of training in the law. The judge is not permitted to offer legal counsel or assist in providing legal answers.

It is simple to make mistakes in self-represented situations or unintentionally say anything that will negatively impact the case on the record. The amount granted may be reduced by inadvertent statements that are disclosed to the other side or the insurance companies.

Many people are also unaware that if they do not include future costs in the damages, they may still be liable for medical expenses after the court processes. Insurance firms may also attempt to minimize the amount that a person recovers and reach a settlement that does not cover your future medical needs.

A plaintiff will have a better chance of collecting the entire amount of compensation they demand for all injuries and that the legal process is correctly handled if they hire a lawyer. To increase the likelihood that the plaintiff will receive compensation, an attorney can apply all applicable laws to the case.

What to Do After a Dog Bite?

Dogs’ mouths are full of bacteria, and if the wound is not treated, it could result in a major illness. Even if the bite does not seem to be that bad, it is still vital to visit the hospital or doctor.

One should be aware of the expiration date of their tetanus vaccination when seeking medical assistance for a dog bite because the doctor would probably ask. They will probably want to give a booster shot if the original shot was given more than five years ago. Although most vaccinations last for 10 years, it is better to be safe rather than sorry when dealing with dog bites.

The dog bite victim should keep a record of all expenses and medical care when seeking treatment. A dog bite victim may seek compensation from the court for any medical care related to the injury or anything else suffered as a result of the harm.

As with any accident, the victim’s health and safety come first. The person should seek medical assistance right away if they are attacked by a dog. Extreme dog bites can result in significant blood loss, especially if the bite damages an artery or vein.

Florida Dog Bite Laws

According to Florida law under Dog Owner’s Liability statutes, if a dog attacks someone while on a public place or on the dog owner’s property, if the victim is there legally, the dog owner is responsible for any harm or damage the dog does.

Florida Statute 767.04 provides:

The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident. A person is lawfully upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner. However, the owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog.” The remedy provided by this section is in addition to and cumulative with any other remedy provided by statute or common law.

The owner of the dog is legally liable for any damages and medical expenses incurred as a result of the dog’s bite. Note that only dog bites are protected under Florida law, not bites from other types of animals.

In Florida, if it can be established that the victim was bitten by the owner’s dog, the owner can be held accountable. Dog owners in Florida are also responsible for any harm their dogs may do to other animals or dogs.

Under the Florida statute, the culpability of the dog’s owner is diminished by the degree that the bitten person’s fault contributed to the incident if any negligence on their part was a direct cause of the incident.

Florida Laws on Other Actions by a Dog that Injure You

An owner of a dog is also strictly liable for the actions of a dog, other than a just a dog bite, which cause an injury.  For instance, if the dog lunges at a bicyclist and causes the bicyclist to fall, the owner of the dog is responsible for the injuries to the bicyclist.  If a dog trips a person, then the owner can be responsible for the injuries to the pedestrian.  Finally, Howell & Thornhill P.A., has handled a case where the dog urinated on the ground and caused the visitor to the home to fall, and our firm sought damages against the owner of the dog for the severe injuries.

Florida Statute 767.01 provides “Owners of dogs shall be liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person or to any animal included in the definitions of “domestic animal” and “livestock” as provided by s. 585.01.”

This statute only applies to dogs and does not apply to other animals like cats that run in front of a car.

What is Strict Liability?

Both civil and criminal law use the notion of strict responsibility, which holds a person accountable for their conduct regardless of their motivation at the time of the action. So, with dog bites, the owners are responsible for the bite even if the owner had no idea that the dog was vicious or would bite someone.

Simply put, if you own a dog, and that dog attacks or bites someone, you are liable. There are a few exceptions to strict liability.

The strict liability standard only applies to the owners of the dogs.  If the owner of the property is not the owner of dog, like the situation where the landlord owns the house but the tenant owns the dog, then the injured person must prove the landlord knew of the dog’s vicious nature to recover damages against the landlord who does not own the dog.

Is Florida a Strict Liability State for Dog Bites?

Yes. Even if their dog has never displayed hostility toward anyone or has never bitten anyone before, dog owners are nonetheless responsible for any damages. This is referred to as strict liability, which holds owners accountable regardless of whether they were aware of or ought to have been aware of their pet’s potential for injury.

However, if at the time of any such injury, the owner had displayed in a prominent location on their premises a sign easily readable, including the words “Dangerous Dog,” the owner is not liable, except in the case of a person under the age of 6 or unless a negligent act or omission of the owner directly causes the damages.

Proving Negligence After a Dog Bite

In Florida, a victim of a dog bite can recover damages without having to demonstrate negligence. However, the injured party will need to demonstrate carelessness in the limited instances where strict liability does not apply in order to recover for injuries. Consider the case where the landlord is the only person with liability coverage for injuries but does not own the dog.  The landlord is only responsible, and hence their homeowner’s insurance is only responsible, if the landlord knew of the dangerous nature of the dog and failed to correct or warn of the dangerous condition.

In a dog bite case, it can be challenging to prove negligence when strict liability was not applicable.  Witness statements are crucial to prove the dog’s dangerous behavior leading up the dog bite and the landlord’s knowledge of that behavior.

Is the Owner Liable if the Dog Was Provoked?

The amount of damages an owner must pay will be less if the victim was negligent and “provoked” the dog.  The plaintiff will probably bear at least half of the liability if the provocation is thus severe and ongoing. A 2023 law in Florida prevents a victim from recovering any money if they are more than 50% at fault.  While this may sound unfair, it makes witness statements and immediate investigation of the event crucial to prevent a false claim that the victim “provoked” the dog.

Injures After a Dog Bite

Dog bites frequently result in more than just a small scratch and may need immediate medical intervention. The average dog has 42 teeth, which can exert a combined force of 220 to 560 psi, according to research. However, some dogs, such as Kangals and English Mastiffs, can exert up to 743 psi of force. The average human bite is 120 psi, for a quick comparison.

Dog bites can cause severe injuries and even death. The most common injuries sustained from a dog bite after deep lacerations are bacterial infections. In addition to these, dog bites can result in broken bones from force, extreme puncture wounds, a torn artery or vein, nerve damage, internal bleeding, rabies, and severe scarring.

These wounds may need to be bandaged or even undergo life-threatening surgery. A patient might require a skin graft or, in the most extreme circumstances, an amputation if the dog attack is that bad. Dog bites should not be taken lightly, and some wounds, particularly infections, may not be immediately apparent.

Filing a Dog Bite Lawsuit

A dog bite lawsuit is filed after the incident, exactly like any other personal injury accident claim. The victim should always protect their health and safety, just as they should in any case where an injury happens.

It is crucial to have the dog owner’s contact information after seeking medical attention for the dog. Included are the names and addresses of everyone involved, the dog’s description, and any other relevant details, such as whether the dog was provoked, whether it was on a leash, and whether there was a fence present.

Next, it is critical to have photographs of the dog, the scene, and the injuries.  The victim should also file a dog bite complaint with Animal Control when the incident happened. The court will want to examine the complaint. It is crucial to get the record from Animal Control.

Additionally, it’s crucial to preserve all medical reports and receipts, as well as any therapist notes one would want to include in the record to demonstrate physical pain and suffering. These records will demonstrate how the dog bite affected the victim’s life. It is also important to give proof of any lost work time.

After conducting due diligence and getting the information together, it is finally time to file the lawsuit. Although this can be done pro se (without an attorney), it may be a good idea to retain legal counsel to assist with the complaint. This will give people confidence that the legal process was followed correctly.

Damages to Claim in a Dog Bite Lawsuit

In a dog bite case, the plaintiff seeks damages to “make them whole again” and compensate them for all losses and harms resulting from the dog bite. Medical expenses can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, particularly if the victim needs surgery or other post-injury treatment or rehabilitation.

Dog bites can cause lifelong harm or disfigurement, which might be mentioned in the complaint’s damage section. These long-term injuries will probably result in emotional and psychological anguish, which may also be covered by pain and suffering compensation. As there are no records or receipts to monetize the precise amount, these damages—also known as non-economic damages—are challenging to show.

Economic damages will be simpler to recover because there will be documentation of the victim’s injury costs in the form of medical bills, lost workdays, and other receipts.

Is the Dog Required to be Euthanized After a Bite?

Generally, after the first incident, a dog will not be ordered to be euthanized unless the attack was so severe or included multiple people.  Animal control will consider quarantining the dog to ensure it does not have rabies.

A dog is considered dangerous under Florida law if it has repeatedly killed or seriously harmed a domestic animal, bit, attacked, or seriously hurt a human. If a dog attacks someone after being provoked or if the dog was defending someone else from an attack, the dog will not be labeled dangerous.

Owners of dogs that have been deemed dangerous are subject to additional obligations. Dog owners are required to register their pets with the state and file a missing pet report right away if they get loose. Additionally, they must always keep the dog on a leash and display warning signs at all entrances to their property. To further mark the dog as a dangerous dog, a tattoo or chip implant is required.

Hiring a Dog Bite Attorney

Your life can be drastically changed by a dog bite. You may have thousands of dollars in medical expenditures and bills as a result of serious injuries, such as major cuts. Plus, you may have psychological effects of a dog bite as well as pain and suffering.  If a dog bit you or someone you know, you should get legal counsel right away.

Furthermore, personal injury law is complex, but Howell and Thornhill can help you understand the claims process and lessen your worry.  Howell & Thornhill’s team of expert trial lawyers are available to provide you with a confidential and free consultation. Contact us today at (800) 992-0492 so that we can provide you with immediate assistance.